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Israel on My Mind

Today is a weird day, and I am struggling.

After a month of holidays and inconsistency with schedules and kids off school and needing to prepare for this day or that, I was looking forward to a day and a week of "normal" to get back on track.

But nothing about today is "normal." Because, over the weekend, Israel was attacked, and we are now at war.

I fully recognize that I am safely at home in Denver and am not even an Israeli citizen, but I very much feel a part of "we." I have visited Israel at least a dozen times and lived there for three years. My oldest child was even born there. All of my kids are technically Israeli citizens, even though only one has an official passport. And the Jewish community is small. Virtually everyone I know knows someone who lives in Israel. My Facebook feed is filled with people sharing posts from people looking for loved ones. People I love are being deeply impacted by the situation. And I feel helpless.

When the news broke, I had the totally irrational fear that everyone I care about may have randomly decided in the last 24 hours to hop on a plane for Israel without telling me, even though I was pretty sure those with whom I am closest were all currently in my house or within a 20 minute drive.

Last night, as I was putting my kids to bed, one of my kids begged to not have to go to school today, arguing that one day at home with me and not at school wouldn't make a difference for college admission or future job opportunities. I pushed back and told him that he was going to school...and then spent all night thinking about how that one day would matter if tomorrow was his last day. And then I fought myself because I didn't want to send any of my kids to school, just in case.

This morning, my kids had a delayed start at school. I made them waffles and then convinced myself that giving them whipped cream and chocolate syrup as toppings would somehow protect them from the sadness and fear I was feeling.

I asked them if they had any questions about the situation in Israel because I wanted them to have the space to ask me any questions before they headed off to school. My 13-year-old, in typical fashion, made light of the situation by likening Hamas (the terrorist organization) to humus (the chickpea-based food). And my 8-year-old, empathically and innocently, asked why anyone would want to hurt us just for being Jews.

After walking my kids to school this morning, a few moms and I lingered at school -- maybe to stay connected to our kids a little longer, maybe to offer support and connect with each other and feel a sense of community, maybe to see if anyone had any answers that we hadn't found ourselves. Maybe because we didn't really know what we were supposed to do today.

This situation affects us as parents. It affects us as Jews. It affects us as humans.

In the same way that kids should be allowed to go to school without worrying about being shot, humans should be allowed to attend a music festival without being murdered, and families should be allowed to celebrate a holiday without worrying about being kidnapped, and everyone should be allowed to enjoy a Saturday without going to war.

So much is being written right now about how to talk to kids about what is happening, and how to support Israel during this time, and how to stay up to date. If it helps anyone, here is my approach:

  1. As a mother -- I am doing everything I can to make sure my kids feel safe, both physically and psychologically. I want them to have space to ask questions and share their feelings. I want them to know that anything they are thinking or experiencing or feeling is okay. And I want them to know it's okay to ask questions, even if there aren't answers.

  2. As an educator -- I know that kids process things in very different ways depending on their age, experiences, and needs, and they do a great job of guiding us, if we let them. They often ask questions, not because they want an answer from us, but because they want the chance to share their thoughts. They sometimes ask questions that are only tangentially related to what they are actually thinking because they aren't sure how to approach what they really want to know, and we need to give the path to get there. And, they ask questions because they want to be heard and acknowledged, and sometimes just listening is the best thing we can do for them.

  3. As a person -- I am giving myself the space to feel my feelings. I remember when my mother died, and I was sitting shiva, and I was concerned with how I was "supposed" to be feeling. And I remember after 9/11, feeling guilty for being as affected as I was because I didn't know anyone who died. But there is no "supposed" when it comes to processing our feelings, and we are all allowed to feel what we feel. A situation like this triggers our basic needs as humans, and no one is more entitled to grief and sadness and fear. Just know, unfortunately, we are not alone in any of these feelings.

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